Iran’s foreign minister says U.S. targeting of cultural sites would be ‘a war crime’

Iranian senior ministers responded Sunday to Donald Trump’s threat to bomb 52 sites in Iran, saying the attacks would be a “war crime” and comparing the U.S. president to Hitler and Genghis Khan.

Trump on Saturday threatened to bomb 52 Iranian sites, including cultural sites, if Iran retaliates by attacking Americans.

The comments came after Iran promised “harsh revenge” for the U.S. drone strike that killed Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday.

Trump wrote on Twitter that the U.S. had already “targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”

He did not identify the targets but added that they would be “hit very fast and very hard.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Sunday morning that the Trump administration had already “committed grave breaches of (international) law” and that “targeting cultural sites is a war crime.”

His colleague, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, replied to Trump’s tweets shortly after, saying that “like ISIS, like Hitler, like Genghis (Khan),” the U.S. president hated culture.

“Trump is a ‘terrorist’ in a suit’,” he added.

Iranians across all political lines were shocked by the death of Soleimani, a commander widely seen as a pillar of the Islamic Republic.

Retaliation could potentially come through the proxy forces Soleimani oversaw as the head of an elite unit within the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Soleimani’s longtime deputy Esmail Ghaani already has taken over as the Quds Force’s commander.

Late Saturday, a series of rockets launched in Baghdad fell inside or near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy.

The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the US is a party, bars any military from “direct hostilities against cultural property.”

However, such sites can be targeted if they have been re-purposed and turned into a legitimate “military objective,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Iran, home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites, has in the past reportedly guarded the sprawling tomb complex of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with surface-to-air missiles.

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